Good product photography is important. It increases the perceived value of your products and makes your website appear more trustworthy.
But taking your products to a professional photographer can be expensive if you're just starting out. That’s why we put together the ultimate DIY guide to beautiful product photography, so that you too can shoot some gorgeous pictures that sell.
As a follow-up, we’ve compiled 40 tools and resources to help you take your own product photos. These include resources on lighting, recommendations of experts, and things you need for your home studio.
For the shoot
1. Your iPhone
At 8 megapixels, the iPhone 5s offers a great camera. Check out the apps we feature later, like Camera+, that turn your iPhone into an even more powerful machine.
An iPhone shot in action. Credit to the Cocoanetics blog.
Foldio is unfolding a whole new level of possibilities in DIY product photography. The world’s 1st portable studio (mini studio) comes with a foldable compact design, dual LED light strips, 4 backdrops and many other essential components.
And if you're a fan of cameras from Canon, consider the Canon EOS T3. It's excellent quality at its price of $450.
Jeff Delacruz, the expert who put together our original DIY photography guide, uses this camera because it's: “affordable but high-quality,” “second only to the Nikon D800,” and also because its file size is small at 24.3mp. At $1900, this is the Cadillac model of cameras here.
Jeff recommends these lenses to go with the D610, for its depth of field, for its 1:1 focus, and because it's at a good price.
You need a tripod for a steady image. Jeff recommends specifically that tripods needn’t be expensive. Here’s a great one for $20. It’s light and extendable.
7. Joby GorillaPod
Your iPhone needs a stand too, and you can’t go wrong with the GorillaPod. It’s a small tripod that promises to grip smartphones tightly. Its legs are flexible, which means that it can be wrapped along a surface.
As an alternative to a tripod, you might get a stand like the Spiderpodium. It fits not only on a table, but even on a bike or in the car.
Shooting on the iPhone? Camera+ is an app that enhances the capabilities of your phone camera in really powerful ways. You have the ability to change shooting modes, adjust touch exposure, and set up a grid to guide your shots.
Arqspin is a product that lets you capture 360-degree shots. If you want your customer to view a product at all angles before purchase, for example of a shoe, this is the tool to use. The basic feature is $19.95 a month; you’ll also need to purchase a spinning disk, which ranges from $99.95 to $349.95.
11. Folding Table
From Jeff: “A standard folding table works best, and a width that’s between 24 and 27 inches is ideal.” We’ve found one here at a cheap price for 24 inches.
Seamless background paper from Savage is the industry standard, and is used as a simple background for the photos of your products. Use it with a sweep, below.
As an alternative to background paper, you can get a sweep. These can be propped up to be used as a support stand. Wrap it with background paper and you’ll get a smooth background without a visible corner or fold.
14. Mat Board
If you can’t get a sweep, find a thin Mat Board, which are a more easily available alternative. You should still be going for pure white here.
You might also consider using a cyclorama to create an “infinite curve,” or a horizon line type in the photo.
16. Gray Card
A gray card is a standard middle gray reference used to produce consistent image exposure and color. Use it as a reference for lighting.
17. Light Tent
A light tent softens the light and removes reflections when shooting reflective objects.
18. Homemade Light Box
For those who are really serious about shooting their own products, we’ve included this guide to construct your own light box. With a lightbox, you’re able to better control the lighting.
Want to know how to use all of these products? Then head over to Jeff’s guide.
Photo editing after the shoot
Taking the photo is only the first part of producing great photography. Editing it to make it the best it can be is nearly as important. Here are some tools, some super-sophisticated and some free.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program can’t quite do all that Photoshop can do… but it’s free. Download GIMP and you’ll get most of the photo editing features you need.
If your needs are basic and you don’t have a great volume of pictures, you can upload a photo to a site for editing. FotoFlexer offers a great deal of effects and shapes to enhance your photo.
Pixlr is another online tool, and can also be downloaded to your phone as an app. If you’re shooting people, you can use Pixlr to remove red-eye and whiten teeth.
Credit to Wesley Hancock's blog.
Want to edit a photo on your phone? Use Photoshop Express – it’s free.
TouchRetouch is an app that specifically removes unwanted objects or contents for your photos. Have an unwanted guest in a shot? Is the moon distracting from a night shot? Edit them out. It’s only 99 cents.
24. Clipping Magic
Clipping Magic is an online tool that lets you remove the background of your product. If you dislike, say, the lighting and the colors behind it, you can remove your product to create a uniform background. It can also be used to refine edges and reduce blur.
25. Photoshop Elements
You know of Photoshop. It’s the photo editing software that can do all you can ask for and then some. The more lightweight version is called Photoshop Elements 12 and costs $80. A free trial is also available.
Lightroom is a tool for editing photos and organizing them. It’s especially useful for managing large quantities of photos. As an addition to Photoshop, it also organizes and processes large numbers of images.
Want professional help?
Have to turn to a professional? We have a few suggestions.
This is Jeff Delacruz’s studio. You can’t go wrong with the guy who wrote the original ultimate guide on DIY photography. Ship your products to Jeff in Chicago and his team will take all the photos you need.
Remove the Background is service that strips the background of your images (like Clipping Magic, above) at a cheap price. It uses proprietary software and promises 24-hour turnaround at $1.45 per image.
29. Mister Clipping
Mister Clipping has been removing backgrounds since 2005, and provides handmade paths for clipping. Its prices range from $0.95 to $9.95 per image.
There are of course hundreds of experts who are able to help you with not just photography, but also design. Many are experienced with helping Shopify merchants.
A few other guides
We’ve suggested the tools to set up a DIY studio, but we haven’t really told you how to use them. So we’ve put together this list of resources as guides to using them.
We’ve been focusing heavily on Jeff’s walkthrough of DIY photography, but there are other good walkthroughs as well. Check out this one, from Richard Lazazzera. He didn’t have to spend over $50 getting his studio set up.
This guide, which involves string, duct tape, clamps, and coathangers, is more complicated, but the results are beautiful.
One last guide for you, from Darren Rowse at the Digital Photography School. It involves very basic materials, like a cardboard box, to create very good photos of products.
If you want a general photography blog, check out CameraShy. Ingrid blogs regularly and offers intro courses on basic photography.
The Strobist blog is dedicated to the trickiest part of photography: Lighting. Take a look at its resources on every aspect of controlling your product photography lighting.
Are you a video learner? Take a look at this 15-part series focusing on everything from lighting, to editing, to shooting jewelry in particular.
For a more concise video to understand product photography, check out the 17-minute guide by Forrest Tanaka. It features a complete product workflow from planning, lighting, editing, and publishing.
38. Jen Carver photography workshop
Jen Carver hosts regular webinars and workshops, online and around the country. She’s especially skilled at publishing photography for children, and has been featured in eight magazines.
If you’re the reading type, check out this book by Cyrill Harnischmacher. Its subheadline is: Using Compact Flashes and Low-Cost Tricks to Create Professional-Looking Studio Shots.
This book is our last recommendation for a resource. The author is a professional photographer whose work has been published in Rolling Stone, Elle, and US Weekly. It’s a quite comprehensive guide.
Product photography is a key part of your business
Product photography is important, and we want you to do it right. It can be tricky, but good photos are crucial to generating sales. That’s why we’ve provided you with tools and resources to practice getting good.
Don’t be a poorly-designed site with badly-lit photos. Get great at product photography today.